London's East End art scene: 10 galleries worth a visit

By Mark Sheerin | Updated: 25 October 2013

With more than 180 galleries in the area, London’s East End is a great place to visit for art. Here is a Culture24 pick of ten venues to get you started.

Black exterior of an East London gallery

(Above) Wilkinson Gallery, Vyner Street: www.wilkinsongallery.com

Whitechapel
77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London

It was founded in 1901 to bring art to the East London masses. Now Whitechapel brings masses of visitors to East London. Director Iwona Blaswick oversaw a 2009 expansion and today the Gallery is one of the most exciting venues in the world.

Admission free for most exhibitions. Open 11am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday (Thursday to 9pm). See website for current exhibitions.

Rivington Place
Rivington Place, London

The Shoreditch gallery is shared by Iniva and Autograph ABP who also share a commitment to diverse perspectives in contemporary art and photography. An £8m building is the first new-build public space in London since the Hayward opened in 1968.

Admission free. Open 11am-6pm Tuesday to Saturday (Thursday to 9pm/Saturday from 12noon). See website for current exhibition.

White walled gallery space at Whitechapel

The public gallery at Whitechapel is a gateway to the area's vibrant art scene

Carl Freedman
44a Charlotte Road, London

In a small white box tucked behind a buzzer in trendy Hoxton is Carl Freedman. The Gallery represents 11 international artists and, in a capacity of writer/curator, founder Freedman once worked with Damien Hirst to establish the Brit Art phenomenon.

Admission free. Open 12pm-6pm Wednesday to Saturday. See website for current exhibition.

Matt's Gallery
42-44 Copperfield Road, London

With non-commercial shows in inauspicious premises, Matt's gallery is something like the soul of East End art. It represents such names as Mike Nelson, Willie Doherty, Lindsay Seers and Susan Hiller. Plus the founder's dog, which answers to Matt E. Mulsion.

Admission free. Open 12pm-6pm Wednesday to Sunday during exhibitions. See website for current exhibition.

Barbican Art Gallery
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London

Not too far from Hoxton is another major London space. The Barbican Art Gallery mixes art with the best in international architecture, design and photography. Successful shows often leave East London bound for all four corners of the world on tour.

Admission fee varies. Open 11am-8pm daily (Tuesday/Wednesday to 6pm/Thursday to 10pm). See website for current exhibition.

Colour photo of a gallery interior
Waterside Contemporary, Hoxton© http://www.waterside-contemporary.com

Maureen Paley
21 Herald Street, London

Paley opened one of the first private galleries showing contemporary art to the East End. In 1984 she opened Interim Art in a terraced house, moving to current premises in 1999, and changing the name to celebrate 20 years in business in 2004.

Admission free. Open 11am-6pm Wednesday to Sunday. See website for current exhibition.

Wilkinson
50-58 Vyner Street, London

The black shell of a former factory opens up to reveal 560m² of white walled space over two floors. Wilkinson was the first purpose built gallery in the thriving E2 postcode and it now represents 31 artists.

Admission free. Open 11am-6pm Wednesday to Saturday (Sunday from 12pm). See website for current exhibitions.

Seventeen
17 Kingsland Road, London

Seventeen is the last bastion of Shoreditch art before the long trudge up Hackney Road to Vyner Street. A low key space with a shopfront and a basement, you can expect to find work here by the likes of David Blandy and Susan Collis. 10 artists in total are represented, most of whom keep busy on the international scene.

Admission free. Open 11am-6pm Wednesday to Saturday. See website for current exhibition.

A gallery hoarding on the outside of a block of industrial units

Transition Gallery, Regent Studios: www.transitiongallery.co.uk

Waterside Contemporary
2 Clunbury Street, London

Here is a gallery which doesn't care what the neighbours think. To be found on an as yet ungentrified Hoxton estate, Waterside Contemporary represents the likes of Marcin Dudek and Brad and Karen Mirza, plus dozens more who can be perused in shop front windows which might otherwise be boarded up.

Admission free. Open 12pm-6pm Wednesday to Saturdays. See website for current exhibition.

Transition Gallery
Unit 25A Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, London

Those who venture off the beaten track will be rewarded by a visit to Transition, base of artist, gallerista and publisher Cathy Lomax. Uncommercial shows feature a diverse mix of work by emerging and established artists.

Admission free. Open 12pm-6pm Friday to Sunday while shows are on. See website for current exhibition.

Finally, if you think there’s safety in numbers, here are two great ways to explore London’s East End.

On TimeOut First Thursdays, 100 galleries in the area stay open until 9pm. This draws a crowd on the first Thursday of each month, as the name suggests. See www.firstthursdays.co.uk for map and further details.

Alternatively, you could join a guided tour. Artfeelers (artfeelers.com) will escort you round the hood for two hours and let you meet gallery owners, artists and curators, all for just £10 (£5 students).

You might also like:

The best art exhibitions to see in London during autumn/winter 2013

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